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Senate considers 2 bills seeking swift prosecution for money laundering

10 November 2021   |   2:33 pm
The Senate on Wednesday considered two critical Bills seeking to facilitate the swift prosecution of money laundering actors.

Nigerian Senate PHOTO: Nigerian Senate /Facebook/TopeBrown

The Senate on Wednesday considered two critical Bills seeking to facilitate the swift prosecution of money laundering actors.

The bills, when passed, would also provide the needed framework for the prosecution of public servants with unexplained sources of wealth.

Both bills, which scaled second reading during plenary, were sponsored by Sen. Sadiq Umar (APC-Kwara North) and Sen. Suleiman Kwari (APC-Kaduna North).

The bills are: Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Bill, 2021, and Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) (Repeal & Re-enactment) Bill, 2021.

Leading debate on the general principles of the first bill, Umar explained that the legislation seeks to repeal the extant Act and enact the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2021.

This, he said, was to provide for a more comprehensive legal and institutional framework for the prevention and prohibition of money laundering in Nigeria.

According to the lawmaker, the bill takes into consideration the changing patterns and manifestation of money laundering as an offence

“This includes: Investment or funds transfer made or obtained fraudulently into legitimate businesses to make the illicit funds difficult to trace.

“The United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention describes money laundering as the concealment or disguising of the true nature, source, location, movement rights.

“This is with respect to, or, ownership of property, knowing that such property is derived from an offence.”

He, therefore, added that the bill when enacted would provide the framework for the prosecution of public servants with unexplained sources of wealth.

On the second bill, Sen. Kwari said it was a piece of legislation which when passed, would help in the fight against corruption, money laundering and terrorism.

“It is an open secret that the extant Money Laundering Act could not meet the required international standard.

“There is still a high level of corruption and financial crimes in the country due to identifiable lacunas in the Act,” he added.

Contributing to the debate, Sen. Smart Adeyemi (APC-Kogi West) said the legislation when enacted, would allow the government to probe those who had held public offices.

That is if they were found to be with unexplained sources of monies and property within and outside the country.

He added that the present administration had tackled the issue of corruption headlong more than previous governments in the history of Nigeria.

“There is no doubt that billions of dollars and pounds abroad have been siphoned from our system to foreign nations, especially by those who have held political offices in the past.

“I want to say we must equally look at how we can enlarge the net of exposing and arresting those who have siphoned money out of this country.

“There is need to do an x-ray of all who have held public office in Nigeria, to look at how they acquired their property and their children and immediate families.

“That is when we can be seen to be fighting corruption,” Adeyemi said.

Also, Sen. Ike Ekweremadu (PDP-Enugu West) said, “the initial bill itself was not detailed in terms of what reforms it intended to bring to bear on issue of money laundering, but the second bill was more specific.

“So, I believe there is an absolute need to combine the two. We need to be sure that we are not over designating.

“This is because some of the issues raised are the things that are within the powers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

“The Special Unit that was mentioned in the second bill is already being implemented by EFCC.

“So, if we go further to provide, probably, a chief executive for that special unit, then we are going to have problems between the executive chairman of EFCC and the unit under him.

“So, we need to be a little careful in creating some of these units.

“We need to ensure that if we give powers to government institutions they should be allowed to do their things, instead of sabotaging them further by creating some new agencies.”

In his remarks, the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan, referred the two bills to the Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes to report back to the Senate in four weeks.